The recent death of Rodney King reminds us of many things, not least of which is how important technology can be in the pursuit of justice. The videotape of the beating of King by Los Angeles police in 1991 challenged our nation to take seriously claims from communities of color that they experience police brutality routinely. Fast forward to the 21st century and we can point to repeated examples where new forms of technology provide evidence in the brutal deaths of young black men– Oscar Grant (cell phone video), Derrion Albert (cell phone video), and now Trayvon Martin (cell phone call). When Trayvon’s parents wanted justice for their son they turned to new media, mounting an online petition through Change.org to pressure prosecutors to charge George Zimmerman with his death. Sadly, it seems we still need new media to aid in our pursuit of the killers of, in particular, young people of color.
As the 2012 election approaches it is important to realize how young people, especially youth of color, are using new media to amplify their voices in the political realm. While we know Obama’a 2008 campaign used social media to reach and mobilize young voters, we are less familiar with innovative ways youth of color are circumventing political elites and engaging in a new form of politics called participatory politics. That’s the term researchers in the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics use to describe acts such as starting a political group online, circulating a blog about a political issue, or forwarding political videos to friends. Like traditional political acts they address issues of public concern. The difference is that participatory acts are interactive, peer-based, and do not defer to elites or formal institutions. They are also tied to digital or new media platforms that facilitate and amplify young people’s actions. (Huffington Post)